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Things to Do in French Riviera - page 3

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Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa
2 Tours and Activities

Château St Martin is a former 12th-century Knights Templar fortress on the French Riviera that is now a prestigious five-star guest property. This historic building sits amid acres of natural beauty and affords its guests some spectacular views across the Côte d’Azur.

The château itself blends perfectly with its environment, with red and green vines clinging to the walls for most of the year. The building was restored by the contemporary architect, Luc Svetchine, and decorated by the property’s owner, Maja Oetker. Aubusson and Gobelins tapestries, 18th century pendulums, plus Persian and Turkish carpets combine to make the château a fascinating place to simply wander around. Château St Martin offers some dramatic and varied views from all angles and the grounds’ perfectly-maintained gardens provide a sense of peace and tranquillity.

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Pampelonne Beach (Plage de Pampelonne)
2 Tours and Activities

Often named “St-Tropez’s jewel beach”, Pampelonne Beach is actually located just outside city limits in nearby Ramatuelle. The beach is a 4.5-kilometer stretch of sand very popular amongst tourists, as just one of the few sandy beaches on the French Riviera (as opposed to the pebbly beaches in Nice, for example). Pampelonne was one of the main targets of Operation Dragoon, the large-scaled Allied invasion of southern France in August 1944 that ultimately caused the German army to abandon southern France altogether. After World War II, the Parisian elite, including big names like Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel, and Juliette Greco, gave St-Tropez its glitz and glam reputation by spending their summers at the beach, a tradition that most Northern French vacationers still uphold today – hence why the French Riviera is often qualified as overcrowded in August when the majority of the country is on holiday.

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Hotel Negresco
2 Tours and Activities

While a stay at the Hotel Negresco might break most budgets, it's rightly a historic landmark and one of the most visited sites in the city. It also provides a unique look into the true Old Nice. With doormen in period-correct uniforms and its interior lovingly maintained or restored to its original grandeur, entering Hotel Negresco is like stepping back in time. The Belle Époque style is simply breathtaking, even if to some modern standards it seems a bit gaudy. But the Negresco doesn't simply ride along on its historical bonafides; its two-star Michelin restaurant is the best in Nice, and the rooms are meticulously decorated to reflect the era while discreetly providing modern amenities. Visitors wanting a bit of a splurge can reserve a place for cocktail hour at the Relais Bar, with its polished woodwork and expertly made drinks. And la Rotonde Brasserie should be experienced at least once–not only for its over-the-top carousel-themed décor, but its spectacular sea views.

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Hard Rock Cafe Nice
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1 Tour and Activity

For every visitor who rolls their eyes at the newest addition to the Promenade des Anglais, there is an equal number of visitors–and locals – who are thrilled at the recent arrival of a Hard Rock Cafe in Nice. Its exterior blends in quite nicely with the facades along this famous strip, and its location ensures that it will be around for the long haul.

Unlike many American-style restaurants in France, this is the real deal; there are no French concessions to the American palate, and it can be a welcome treat for Americans to have a taste of home after days of the finest the Riviera has to offer. And as usual, plenty of memorabilia is on display here – although the big draw is the “Rock Wall Solo,” which allows visitors to take an interactive, virtual tour of Hard Rock Cafes around the world and the memorabilia they have as well.

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Tourrettes
1 Tour and Activity

Tourrettes, a hilltop village in the Var department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, consistently makes every list of day trips from Nice. It's exactly what visitors dream of when they talk about “discovering” a place in the South of France that seems like it's all their own.

The pedestrian-only and oldest part of the town is a warren of narrow streets lined with stone homes, many with ground-floor shops that could empty the wallet of even the most budget-conscious traveler. With brightly painted doors and perfectly grown creeping vines and flowering plants that would make Martha Stewart swoon, even an hour spent in Tourrettes provides plenty to take in. The intoxicating smell of violets is everywhere, and there are also the outer roads, which offer borderline-vertiginous views of the valley below and the neighboring hills. It's nothing short of stunning.

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Massif des Maures
1 Tour and Activity

Those looking for an outdoor experience on the Cote d'Azur will find what they're looking for in the Massif des Maures. This mountain range sits back from the coast and runs from east of Toulon to west of Cannes; the peninsula on which St-Tropez lies, roughly halfway between, is also a part of the Massif. Even casual hikers find its forests, vineyards, and rolling plains yielding wild orchids and strawberries a welcome change from the sometimes frenetic energy of the Riviera in high season.

The Massif des Maures roughly translates to “the Moorish Mountains,” and its highest point (2,559 feet; 780 meters) is called Le Signal de la Sauvette. While its steep contours and isolated pockets leave much of the mountain range pristine, the villages of La Garde Freinet and Collobrieres can show visitors what life is like here.

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Nice Corniche Roads (Les Trois Corniches)
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1 Tour and Activity

There are three Corniche roads of the Cote d'Azur, each with spectacular views.

Forged by the Romans and shored up by Napoleon, the Grande Corniche is the highest of the roads along the coast, and also the most dangerous. But not only is it the least safe driving-wise, its altitude also often means a whitewash of fog, which does a driver no favours. Confident drivers wishing to see the Cote d'Azur at its most unspoiled will want to take this road.

This road goes along the coast, often side-by-side with the train line – thus its name, which translates to the Low Cornice. Exits for all of the French Riviera towns make this a convenient route for road trippers, but this can also mean extreme congestion on the weekends and during the high season.

The Moyenne Corniche is the newest of the routes along the Mediterranean, and it sits in altitude between the upper Grande and the lower Basse. Eze, the popular inland destination, is accessible via the Moyenne.

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Castellane
1 Tour and Activity

Known by locals as the Gateway to Verdon Gorge, Castellane is home to four mountain passes and a popular that make it the ideal destination for hikers and wanderers looking to explore scenic trails and take in picturesque views.

The steep trek to Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc, which rises more than 900 meters above the Verdon, is one of Castellane’s most popular stops and one of the area’s most incredible overlooks. White water rafting on the roaring Verdon River tends to attract the more adventurous set and lovers of old-world architecture find the historic churches and ornate municipal buildings well worth the stop.

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Opio
1 Tour and Activity

Opio, just a half-hour's drive inland from Cannes, puts visitors in the middle of the many things to see and do in the Alpes-Maritimes department. From world-class golfing to a Club Med, Grasse perfume makers and of course the Cote d'Azur, there is something for everyone. And as usual when it comes to this region, there is plenty of history as well.

Traces of the Iron Age and the Roman era have been found in Opio; in addition, there are records of Opio being a part of Antibes and Grasse through the French Revolution. The only thing to see in the village, the 12th-century St-Trophisme Church, is an indication of its vast history. Yes, the village really is that small – just a few houses, really! But the larger surrounding area is where all the fun is.

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More Things to Do in French Riviera

Cap Taillat

Cap Taillat

Cap Taillat is a promontory into the Mediterranean Sea located right at the doorstep of Saint-Tropez. Although difficult to reach (it is only accessible on foot after a short coastal trek), Cap Taillat is one of the most beautiful sights in the area, with wild and unspoiled beaches as well as preserved flora. The many viewing points offer splendid and unobstructed panoramas of the turquoise sea and the dramatic coastline, punctuated by creeks and endemic palm trees. It is a popular summer attraction for visitors from all over France.

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